Most Americans are tattooed

Tattoos - one in five Swiss people is tattooed - but there are signs of a U-turn

Every fifth Swiss person is tattooed - but there are signs of a U-turn

The tattooed generation: In the meantime, one in five people in this country is tattooed, and even one in two among the younger generation. The stars serve as inspiration. There are over 700 studios in the country. But the long-lasting mass phenomenon soon comes to an end.

Whirring, the needle digs into the shoulder blade and pricks the contour of a buffalo. The well-trained customer Dani lies in a bikini on a red bed, under the steady hand of Ralf Hungerbühler. He has already tattooed a skull, roses and a flaming heart on her torso. Now it should be a bison skull with Indian feathers. “I just think it's beautiful,” says Dani, who works in a Zurich recording studio and likes the trashy, nostalgic 50s style.

Just like your tattoo artist Ralf Hungerbühler. Eagles, mermaids and sailor anchors hang on the walls of his St. Gallen studio. “I like traditional motifs,” says the 42-year-old, with a tiger hissing on his neck. And on the back of his hand a woman's face opens the doll's eyes. A little snake slips out of her pout. "My snake charmer," he says with a grin.

Hungerbühler has been tattooing for 18 years. In the 80s there were around 15 studios in Switzerland, in the 90s there were around 80 shops. "Today there are over 700 official tattoo shops in this country - and around 1,400 others that do private tattooing," says Luc Grossenbacher, President of the Association of Swiss Professional Tattooers.

A tiger like Angelina's

Every fifth Swiss woman has a tattoo, and almost every second woman among the younger ones. Some go to a tattoo artist like a hairdresser. Instead of the same hairstyle as a movie star, they want angel wings on the neck like Justin Bieber or a Bengal tiger like the one Angelina Jolie wears on her lower back.

The worldwide tattoo boom has spawned an entire industry. There is no training, the job title “tattoo artist” is not protected. Luc Grossenbacher says: “It used to be said that whoever does nothing becomes a landlord. Today you become a tattoo artist. "

Hungerbühler is amazed at how casually some people ask him on Instagram today whether he can train them - as if a quick bleaching would be enough. The trained locksmith tattooed for years in St. Gallen before he found his “master” at XXX in Lucerne: the American Rob Koss, who is so well known that you have to wait a year for an appointment with him.

Anyone can order a tattoo set on the Internet. Tattoo parties, where tipsy visitors get stung, are also popular. That was still unthinkable when Ralf Hungerbühler had his first tattoo in Miami at the age of 21 and a fully tattooed upper arm was considered gross. Today he often decorates an entire back with a needle and ink, which requires a few sessions and costs around 4,000 francs. "I think it's nice when someone gives me such a large piece of skin."

Swiss are among the best

At the beginning of the 20th century, only prison brothers, pimps, die-hard sailors and prostitutes were tattooed. "That is over," says the German psychologist Erich Kasten. The man from Hamburg has been researching motifs for body modifications such as piercing, tattoos and implants for years. "The fact that tattoos are fashionable and expensive has long removed the smell of the criminal outsider from body jewelry." Today you can even pay five-figure sums for well-made tattoos at a hip tattoo master. The better known the artist and the more detailed the picture, the more expensive it is. Tattoos are an object of prestige like an expensive car. Kasten says: "You can show professionally clean tattoos and be proud of them like a real painting by Salvador Dalí on the wall."

Switzerland has produced a large number of well-known tattoo artists to whom fans from all over the world make pilgrimages. One of the stars of the scene is Maxime Plescia-Büchi from Lausanne, who has already tattooed rapper Kanye West in his London studio Sang Bleu. He only draws black, combining Greek columns, birds of prey, figures of saints and geometric shapes. "A tattoo is the most extreme form of possession," said Plescia-Büchi once in an interview. «You can't sell it. It only dies when you die. "

Former theater painter Mick Schraner has specialized in Japanese dragons that look amazingly real. He lives and works in an Appenzeller house in Rehetobel. Schraner is one of the Swiss tattoo artists who have made a name for themselves internationally - with his sensitivity for proportions, plasticity, color and style.

Filip Leu from Lausanne is also a living legend. His father introduced him to the trade when he was eleven. Known for his insane pace of work, his ability and his patience, Leu has established himself as an expert in Asian tattoos of western style. He also trained many talents in his studio “The Leu Family’s Family Iron” in Sainte-Croix. The trained graphic artist and psychologist now also has a studio in Zurich, which has created a hype.

Chicago graphic designer Rob Koss settled in Lucerne at the age of 26. His world-famous work is influenced by Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Gothic, Balinese ornaments, biomechanics and also by realism. The trained graphic artist Jacqueline Spoerlé has also established herself in Lucerne. In her studio “Corazon Tattoo” she dedicates herself to tribal and ethnic tattoos. Spoerlé draws on tattooing experience that she gained in New Zealand, Samoa and Tahiti. In fast-moving times, the images on the skin are also something permanent. "You have to earn it, suffer pain, break out of your comfort zone," adds tattoo artist Hungerbühler. «It's forever. That takes courage. "

Lying eight for the lovers

The motifs are subject to fashion trends. In the nineties, tribals were popular over the tailbone. Far Eastern characters followed. Maori tattoos are currently in fashion. Another trend are micro tattoos, which are very small and filigree. Fonts, children's names, and sayings are also popular. «And dandelions with pollen seeds. And trees from which birds flutter, ”says association president Luc Grossenbacher. Blackworks are also an issue - tattoos in black, some with fine shades of gray and a vintage touch. Lovers choose a lying figure eight as a symbol of their love. The classics that are always in demand include roses, hearts and swallows. They too stand for love. Tattoos are used to express the unspeakable with a symbol.

One also sees skulls very often. "A skull on the upper arm can be a sign of a willingness to use violence, but it can also be a reminder of the finiteness of life and not to waste one's life idly," says psychologist Erich Kasten. The interpretation is always individual, as with the dream interpretation. Tattoo motifs can represent wishes. Some try to capture a companion on their skin through images of predators like a lion who has properties that one would like to have oneself.

It is not uncommon for frustrations to be compensated for with a beautiful tattoo. But it can also be good times, such as passing the Matura. Some parents have pictures of their children tattooed on them. "The decision to get a tattoo often matures over years," says Erich Kasten. For their 18th birthday, when you can decide for yourself, and also after the separation from their partner, many people go to the tattoo artist. In both cases one shows: "This is my body, I can now determine it alone and shape it as I like it." Psychologists also see the phenomenon as part of the body cult, which many practice with almost religious zeal. With nutrition, fitness and also tattoos you model and decorate your body. And one is happy to have everything under control, at least in this area of ​​life, in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

“The mass phenomenon will certainly not go on like this forever,” says Erich Kasten. Tattoos emerged from the need to be different and also out of protest against the bourgeois society. Since millions of people already have a tattoo, these reasons no longer apply. If you want to provoke with it, you have to choose extreme motifs on exposed parts of the body. That is why today areas are tattooed that were previously taboo: hands, neck and even the face and skull.

Problems at work

Association president Luc Grossenbacher, who has been running a tattoo shop for over 30 years, has observed a turnaround: the demand has decreased. Tattoos are also still not welcome in various industries. Cashiers and bankers would have to cover the illustrated skin. "Unfortunately, it is clear that applicants with visible tattoos in many professions have even worse chances of getting the job, especially if they have customer contact," says Erich Kasten, who recently wrote a study on it.

One should be careful with visible tattoos. People develop further in their personality; who knows at 20 where he will be at 50? «Christian Wulff's wife had a tattoo; could she have guessed that one day she would be the wife of the Federal President? ”says Kasten.

Nobody can see into the future. That doesn't matter to customer Dani. The buffalo on her right shoulder blade is already taking shape, the needle buzzes. "Is it okay?" Asks tattoo artist Ralf Hungerbühler. She nods, smiles painfully. It is definitely not her last tattoo.